Boston Red Sox

By Ty Anderson,

The Boston Red Sox enter the All-Star break with the best record in baseball, at 68-30.

But it’s a lot more than just the best record in baseball. Their 68 wins are the most by any team at the All-Star break — like, not just in the American League, but in all of baseball history — beating the Baltimore Orioles of 1969 by a solid three wins. (It’s worth noting is that this All-Star break is a little later than usual, but the overall point remains.) And their winning percentage to this point is the same of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, a team that went on to win an MLB-record 116 games.

The Red Sox are also paced for the best single-season record in the entire 117-year history of the franchise. One more time for the people in the back? One more time for the people in the back: In the entire 117-year history of the Boston Red Sox. From Smoky Joe Wood to Fightin’ Joe Kelly, few Sox squads have been as good as this one has through their first 98 games.

If this is something that you’re having a difficult time enjoying, it’s because you simply prefer being miserable.

Now I say this knowing that I can’t sit here and tell you what to like; Some people like vanilla ice cream, while enlightened people like myself know that it’s pure trash. Some like horror movies, others have a hard time walking in a basement as is.

But this 2018 Red Sox team? That one shouldn’t even require a debate.

Let’s start with everybody’s favorite (completely invented) storyline: Whether or not a team is likable.

And let’s end it by saying that this team is beyond likable. A team of overpaid veterans complaining about night games and a lack of off days? Now, that’s unlikable. This team? This is a team featuring almost everything you should want a contender to boast: Some youthful energy, new leadership emerging, and those familiar faces growing into greater roles or entering their prime. This team even had a bench-clearing brawl with the Yankees, which is always enough to tickle everybody’s hat pink.

If David Price is the most unlikable thing about this team as a fan, you should feel slightly embarrassed that he’s been able to successfully summon your faux-rage with bait like ‘I’m soft’ and ‘Fortnite’ to the often-absurd Boston baseball media. (This is not to say that Price’s performance is above criticism. Because he’s been poor on more than a few occasions this season. But when you listen to those critiquing Price on any given day, it very rarely seems to be about his performance on the mound as much as it’s been about his attitude off it. That’s all perception, and there’s often somebody else leading you there.)

It also feels incredibly weird to say that Price is this genuinely unlikable talent, but also acknowledge that he’s the most important piece to the puzzle that is the postseason fate of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Typically you don’t want those unlikable pieces trying to help you win a damn thing or even on your roster for another day, confirmed by city-wide celebrations when the Red Sox suckered the Dodgers into taking Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez in 2012.

With Price, you need him, but you don’t like him? Huh. Forgive me for thinking we’re all reaching for some invisible angst.

The Red Sox are beyond a feel good story for first-year manager Alex Cora, too.

The biggest breath of fresh air in the Boston clubhouse, and in addition to being all smiles, Cora has instilled an infectious ‘OK, now keep working’ attitude in his roster. (Which is to say that he’s aware of this team’s recent playoff shortcomings.) But he’s also shown an ability to be a legitimate manager when needed. When Carson Smith tried to blame Cora for his injury when in reality it was Smith that rage-quit after a poor outing, Cora outright disputed it and said Smith was wrong.

There’s accountability across the board. And there’s an obvious standard that’s been set by the manager, and confirmed by the faces shining in that dugout and in new and/or different roles versus those that can no longer be found in there.

Cora has essentially found a way to completely avoid the schadenfreude that came with a John Farrell-managed team.

Which, if we’re being honest, played a gigantic factor in your ability to trust, enjoy, and/or watch recent Red Sox seasons. You almost watched to see how the pressurized Farrell would screw a situation up and by the end of it, you drooled over the bizarre, what-the-hell-is-he-saying non-answer he’d go with to ‘explain’ it. I mean, I still actively think about that time Farrell was on the phone with his bullpen when his pitcher on the mound surrendered a moonshot. It was if Farrell saw his managerial career flashing before his eyes and/or saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex scaling the Green Monster. (It was most definitely the former, by the way, though Farrell, dismissed after last season, probably would have preferred the latter.)

With the exception of similar baserunning woes, Cora is the antithesis of everything you came to expect from Farrell’s teams.

There’s one area in which they’re the same, though, and that’s in terms of their recent playoff success in Boston.

Since Farrell took the Red Sox to the World Series in 2013, the Red Sox are a woeful 1-6 in postseason play. That one-for-seven also includes back-to-back season-ending losses at Fenway Park, which always stings more than usual.

But preemptively faulting or harping on Cora for something he has yet to experience — win, lose, or draw — is the stuff of the clinically insane. It’s akin to criticizing the Red Sox for winning more thanks to an easier schedule to date (and when the rest of the American League sucks something fierce like it’s the Major League Process), which is even more ridiculous considering what you’d be tearing them if they didn’t succeed with this kind of schedule through four months.

Will the Red Sox be more than what they’ve been in back-to-back postseasons? That, of course, remains to be seen.

They still have their postseason questions both in terms of efficiency and health, and a crucial stretch run (27 of their final 64 games of the regular season come against teams with at least 50 wins) undoubtedly awaits a now-targeted Red Sox team.

But prepping for the doomsday of a potential roster-wide comedown versus enjoying the on-field growth and results of a Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and J.D. Martinez seems about as enjoyable as being a fan of the next team they’ll surely slap around. And right now, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Instead, you can catch me watching the new ways this team endears itself to Boston on a near-daily basis.

I just hope for your sake that you join in on the fun before it’s too late.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.